Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 18, 2011 Chapters 13 & 14

Chapter 13
    This week has been busy, and not just because of my extracurricular project for the church. At work, I’m building contacts through faculty and staff and deciding what news to include in Insight, looking for the right mix of hard news, basic information and a little fun. Ours is an astute, educated audience, and the newsletter we send out needs to respect that audience as well as inform and entertain. 
My philosophy on what mattered is based on the possibility of a member of the community running into a faculty or staff person in the grocery store — which happens often — and what they might ask about the university. Communications’ job is to supply enough information in a timely manner so Tech employees wouldn’t say “I have no idea because they never tell us anything.” The 2,600 people on the Tech payroll are our first and best ambassadors to the local public and I intend to keep them knowledgeable and informed.

   Judging from the feedback to the weekly Tech trivia contests and the social media we’ve started, the positive response is growing steadily, proving the faculty senate members to be as smart as I thought they were in requesting better communication. 
   And then trouble.

    Thursday morning, as usual, I headed into the office long before the others. My unread morning newspaper was tucked under my arm. Making myself a cup of green tea, I had settled down to shake the cobwebs and see if there was anything in the A-J about Tech, perhaps gleaned from the news releases Steven had sent out earlier that week. I knew Jake was good at using almost everything we sent him, trusting the office to only send out releases readers would care about. Jake, reporter-turned-friend, was out this week, though, taking a short vacation for his brother’s wedding somewhere back East. A cub reporter might have picked something up and run with it, perchance. 
  On the third page, a headline caught my attention, my right hand stopping with my cup in midair. “Oh, God,” I said aloud, and then looked up apologetically, putting down my tea hard enough to spill a few drops. “How did that happen?”
  Dialing Jonathan’s number, I reread the article while his phone rang. The headline said:
    Local Philanthropist Donates $30 million to Tech Wind Museum

  Jonathan, now also a friend, answered on the fifth ring and without my uttering a word, he said quickly, “Just read it, too, Maggie. No idea. Let me see what I can find out. I’ll call,” and hung up. 

      Thirty million dollars, I thought. That’s huge! That’s amazing! My phone rang before I could take my hand away and as I scanned the brief article for the third time, I answered “Communications and Marketing. Margaret Grant speaking.” 
  The voice on the line was loud and angry. “Third page! What in the world do you think you’re doing over there? I get the second largest donation in the history of the university and it only makes page three of the local newspaper?! You should be fired, you know what I mean?”
  “And you are?” I asked defensively as I put the phone back to my abused ear.
  “Dr. Winston P. Whitaker the third, director of the Wind Museum. Who the hell are you?”
  “Margaret Grant, director of Communications. Listen, I’m sorry, Dr. Whitaker, but I knew nothing about the gift.”
  As if he didn’t hear me, he continued, “And no state or national coverage anywhere!”
  “Well, Dr. Whitaker, I can assure you if we had known, we would have put together a marketing plan for the announcement to garner better results. Who did you talk to about it?” I asked, desperately hoping one of my staff hadn’t dropped the ball, although I couldn’t imagine they had.
  “Bennett. Bennett James Boyle — chief of god-damned staff ... and he assured me your office would handle this professionally.”

“And we would have, Dr. Whitaker, but unfortunately, it seems Mr. Boyle forgot to tell us about it.”

“Well, obviously, Miss. This is a disaster! This is all your fault!” 
  “I hardly see how it can be our fault, Dr. Whitaker, if we knew nothing about it. But perhaps it’s not a total disaster, sir. It’s Thursday, so we can get information out to major outlets this afternoon for Sunday’s papers. Why don’t I come over to see you right now and get some facts. I’ll have my staff start working on a state and national package immediately. Will that work for you?”
  My heart was racing as fast as my brain, thinking of the myriad details we would need for such a quick campaign. Finally, he answered, “I’m in my office at the museum. Come now.” And he hung up.
  After a quick call to my troops to get the ball rolling on background of the philanthropist, the director, the history of the museum, needed photography and another quick consultation with Jonathan, I raced to my car to drive to the Wind Museum in the northwest corner of campus. On the way, Steven called me back saying his wife was a friend of the donor’s daughter-in-law, and he might be able to use that connection to get in to see him this morning. I sent him down that path, being thankful for small towns where everyone is somehow connected to everyone else. Steven would do a good job with the interview.
  Although Lubbock early morning traffic is virtually nonexistent in comparison to Dallas, it still took me a good 15 minutes to get to the museum as I dodged students. Dr. Winston P. Whitaker III was pacing in his office. His Texas Tech University Ph.D., master’s and bachelor’s diplomas hung prominently on his wall.
  About my height, he was half-again as round as he was tall, white-headed with an equally white bushy mustache, nattily dressed in tweed, complete with weskit, bow tie and pocket watch on a long shiny gold chain. I guessed from the spring in his animated walk he was younger than me, but dressed as though he was in his seventies. He looked almost comical, like a character straight out of a play. As he ushered me in, his eyes were shooting sparks in accompaniment to the smoke coming out of his ears.
  It took about ten minutes to get him calmed down. I assured him our staff had the talent to do the job right. This was my forte ... gathering facts and information to be regurgitated to the media in the appropriate way. Probing Dr. Whitaker’s knowledge, feeling his excitement for the work he did, examining his dreams for the museum — under careful questioning and delicate nudging, he gradually revealed his passion for wind power and technology and what he believed the future held. He gave a quick tour of the exhibits, and I was surprised at how much slower he walked and talked once he had calmed down. I listened intently while taking notes and calculating where the best photos could be set up later that morning.

  “Dr. Whitaker, tell me about the donation specifically. What will you do with the money?”
  “Oh, my dear,” he said almost breathlessly. “We have such plans. We will, of course, expand our facility as well as our outreach to the community, to Texas and even to the nation. We will become THE place to go for information on windmills and wind energy. After all, the high plains are where it all began, you know what I mean?”
  “Yes, sir. Now what’s your first step?”
  “Well, my dear, first we’ll expand the exhibit hall. We’ll blow out the back wall and the roof,” he said pointing up animatedly, “and go out and up. We’re going to have a room that can house the actual newfangled turbine blades, so their ‘grandglorius’ size can be seen. So the little children can come in and touch them and say ‘wow’ with their eyes popping.” Twinkles had finally replaced the sparks in his own popping eyes and I couldn’t help but get caught up in his excitement. 
  “Projections on construction timeline?” I asked.

“Oh, yes. This first phase should be complete just after the first of the year. I’m planning on  throwing a big party!”
   Another twenty minutes of questions gave me a fairly complete picture of the five-year plan, and I have to admit I was impressed. At the end of the interview I said, “Thank you, Dr. Whitaker.”
  “Windy, please call me Windy. Everybody does.” 
  “Seriously?” I asked skeptically.
  “Oh, yes, my dear. Since I was knee-high to a cotton patch. Mama couldn’t keep me from climbing the windmill out back of the barn. I think I was three the first time I climbed to the top. Just sat there on that old wooden platform under the turning big wooden blades, blowin’ in the wind, you know what I mean?  She was sure I was going to kill myself, but heights never bothered me. And, oh, that windmill just called to me. As did every other windmill in the county. I don’t think there is even one in West Texas I haven’t climbed at some time or another, unless it was put up last week. 

“That big one out front?” he said pointing out the window.  “That’s the one from my family farm ... the Axtel Standard ... the first one I climbed. Built around 1915.”

   I looked out at the almost 70-foot wooden windmill with the 22-foot turning blades and thought it was no wonder his mother was worried. 
   “So, everyone calls me Windy. Seems rather apropos now that I have all this, you know what I mean?”
  “Um, yes, it rather does. Um, thank you, Windy.”
   With notes in hand and a promise to send him a copy of the marketing package, I left Dr. Whitaker – Windy – an almost satisfied man. “It will be fine,” I assured him once more as he escorted me to the front door.

  “Well, my dear, the proof is in the ‘pudomentator,’ you know what I mean?”
  I smiled at him and left. I think I know what he meant, but what an odd expression. I dismissed it, though, making a mental list of which impossible tasks had to be done next.
   Two minutes before the end of the day, Elaine pressed the fax button to send the final media release while Ricky simultaneously pressed send on the electronic version of the same. 
   A collective sigh went up from the staff as they sank into the nearest chairs.
   “Whoa,” Susan said, propping her long legs up on Charlie’s lap and letting her arms drop to her sides. “I’m totally wiped out.”
  “Drink,” moaned Steven. “I need a drink.” Elaine handed him a cold bottled water saying, “Sorry, whiskey’s not allowed on campus.”

   He looked at the bottle and her in mocked disgust, but took a long gulp anyway.
“Great job, folks,” I beamed, leaning against my office doorframe, exhausted  myself.
“It’s a great package. Good stories to pull from, great photos linked on the web, a variety of ways the various media can approach the story, and just an overall quality marketing approach. Thanks so much for all your work.”

“I haven’t worked this hard and this fast for years,” said Charlie, pushing Susan’s legs down and standing up to stretch dramatically. “I loved it!”
  “Me either,” said  Ricky.
  “You’re too young to have ever worked this hard,” Charlie teased, playfully punching him in the arm, which started a brief shadow boxing match. 
   “So true,” said Elaine, “but your fingers were flying on that keyboard, Ricky. Good job. Can we go home, now, Boss?”
  “Of course. But remember, tomorrow we’ll have to do all the work we were supposed to get done today plus all of tomorrow’s normal load and hopefully talk to lots of reporters and handle TV news crews at the museum. So, another busy day, troops.”
  Steven smiled and shrugged as he got up to leave, “Just makes the weekend come faster.” He stood straight and saluted us all saying dramatically, “Good night, my comrades in arms. Today we won the battle, but tomorrow we carry on the war!”
  Laughing, they headed out the door, congratulating each other, giddy with the satisfaction of a job well done. I retreated into my office to get my briefcase, thinking today we had really become a team ...  a team of professionals who put out quality work. I smiled with satisfaction.

   This was one evening I wouldn’t stay late, hoping Doug was cooking something wonderful, and had lots of wine for me to consume while I related the day’s efforts to good friends.
Chapter 14
   The something wonderful was chicken alfredo accompanied by a delicate white wine and fresh spinach salad. A healthy portion was devoured as I related the news of the donation.

   “Russell Arbuckle is the donor. Some big philanthropist from around here. Wealthy beyond measure, from what I understand,” I told them between delectable bites.
   “Must be beyond measure if he can shell out $30 million for windmills,” Doug said. “Arbuckle? Isn’t he the owner of the Cotton A Ranch south of town?”
   “He is,” I nodded as I finished another bite. “Steven did a great news release on his family. He and his wife, Dorthea, I think, have been here in West Texas for several generations. But it’s a farm and a ranch. Money was made through cotton, cattle and not a little bit of oil. Think he has lots of property around Odessa, too. That’s where most of the oil wealth comes from.”
     Sharon asked, “Isn’t he on the Tech Board of Regents?”

“Yep. And a graduate of Tech’s Ag program. I saw him briefly at the Board meeting when Stone announced his resignation. Arbuckle is just an average-looking, unassuming guy. He’s got a crew cut just like my dad used to wear. Asked some intelligent questions at the meeting, too.”
   Sharon said, “Dr. Whitaker must be ecstatic.”
   “He is, or was, after he got over his mad. I swear, it’s as if Bennett Boyle wants us to fail ... or he’s just too dense to know he needs to let us do our jobs.”

“I vote for dense,” Sharon said. “I hate conspiracy theories.” 

   On Friday, several local and state newspaper and television reporters had called to do stories. The team fielded numerous calls from print reporters across the state and one exploratory call from “Good Morning America.”

   Dr. Whitaker was interviewed for the local evening news. To my horror, as I stood to the side watching him being filmed at the museum, he used several words that weren’t really words. Like the one he used the previous day... what was it? “Pudomentator?” Oh, the meaning came across, all right, but it made him appear as though he was making Archie Bunker mistakes. Thankfully, his interviews were edited heavily. His rambling sentences didn’t make for good sound bites, and the non-words weren’t aired that evening. I’ll have to work with him on that or keep him away from cameras.
   At 7 a.m. on Sunday, Steven woke me to relay the news that the story had been repeated on the front page of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal with a new angle. It was also picked up by newspapers across the state. There was even a short blurb in the New York Times. As I hung up the phone, I nestled back under the covers contentedly and said aloud, “Yep, there’s proof in the ‘pudomentator.’ ”
This morning, Jonathan discovered that the previous week Boyle had called the news desk of the A-J and told them about the donation. Seems he thought the A-J cub reporter would then pass the news on to other media outlets, so he didn’t contact anyone else. He told Jonathan his plan had worked, ignorant of the fact Communications and Marketing had rescued the situation. I had asked Jonathan and Dr. Whitaker not to mention our last-minute operation, at least not on Thursday so Boyle couldn’t object before it was done. Evidently they did as I asked because Jonathan said Boyle seemed to take credit for the wide coverage.

  And that was fine with me. Dr. Whitaker was happy. The donor was happy. And Bennett Boyle was as happy as Bennett Boyle could be. All was right with the world. 
  At least for a little while, I hope.

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